Let's be honest: You didn't think the Minnesota Twins would be this good. Not running-away-with-the-division good. Not best-team-in-the-American-League good. Not best-team-in-franchise-history good. Yet they are all of those things and potentially much more.
The early stories about Minnesota's breakout season have centered around their home run bashing. It's not hard to understand why. In a season marked by a coming tidal wave of new home run standards, the Twins have hit more than any team in baseball. Their 157 home runs through Monday already rank 16th in the history of a franchise that is in the midst of its 119th season. The season is barely half over. They are on pace to become the first team to top 300 homers in a season.
Yet if all you know about the Twins is their prolific long ball hitting, you're only getting a sliver of the story. This is a team that set about getting better in ways that go far beyond the payroll register or the transaction wire.
"It really goes back to my time in Cleveland," said Twins chief of baseball operations Derek Falvey, who was reared in the Indians organization, "where we felt like a big part of the success for a mid-market team was to develop the talent that you have. Over time, I've really spent a lot of time thinking about talent development and some of the work that's being done [in that area]."
The thinking has paid off. The Twins own the AL's best run differential. In fact, their run profile currently gives them the best expected winning percentage (.622) in franchise history -- Washington or Minneapolis. Minnesota has gone from a fringe preseason playoff contender to a club that FiveThirtyEight currently gives a 95% shot at the playoffs, an 87% chance to win the AL Central and an 8% chance to win the organization's third World Series crown since the Senators became the Twins in 1961.